Two Sam Houston State University research teams received explosive news Aug. 13 in the form of a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Navy. The monies, awarded through the Texas Regional Institute for Environmental Studies, will fund research aimed at reducing the costs and environmental impact of chemical manufacturing procedures, said Dr. Michael Warnock, TRIES director.

The largest portion of the funds, $780,000, is earmarked for the university's Center for Environmental Chemistry, where scientists are developing new techniques for manufacturing explosives and propellants for the U.S. Department of Defense. The research is aimed at reducing the amount of hazardous byproducts created by the production of these volatile experimental compounds.

"One of the reasons they are still experimental, is because they are very difficult to produce," Warnock said. "You end up with far more waste product than you do end-product materials. And, because these byproducts are extremely hazardous, they are very expensive to dispose of."

SHSU scientists are looking at alternative steps or shortcuts in the elaborate chemical process required to develop the explosive agents. The ultimate aim is to improve the efficiency of the procedure.

"Anytime you increase the efficiency," Warnock said, "you reduce the amount of materials you have to use."

Because many of the techniques used in the early phases of the procedure are similar to those steps employed in the production of many popular petrochemical products, breakthroughs in this area could have far- reaching applications in the civilian world, as well.

"It's not limited to the products the military has an interest in. There are similar molecules that don't have explosive properties," Warnock said. "If we can find a more environmentally sound way to make a molecular ring formation -- do it in a cleaner, more efficient manner -- it won't matter what kind of end product we are producing."

SHSU researchers will focus on the early, non-explosive phase of the manufacturing process and will not work with the "energetically active" or explosive molecules ultimately produced.

"It's a fourth generation explosive, so it doesn't take much of this stuff to produce a big bang," Warnock said. "We don't have the facilities or the desire to do that."

Dr. Tye Barber, an SHSU chemistry professor, is coordinating the study with the Office of Naval Research, the research and development arm of the U.S. Navy.

The second project, supported by the remaining $380,000 of the Navy grant, will fund research in environmental cost analysis. The goal of the project , initiated by the Center for Environmental Accounting in SHSU's College of Business Administration, is to develop a system for assessing the expense of adhering to environmental regulations.

The methodology, based on the principles of activity based costing, was originally developed by Dr. Ross Quarles, an SHSU accounting professor, and his colleagues at the CEA. It is utilized to derive objective estimates of environmental costs associated with manufacturing and production activities.

The innovative system will allow businesses to measure the actual costs related to specific actions required by environmental laws.

Both research projects are scheduled for completion by September 1997.


For more information, contact Phillip Rollfing at 409-294-1837 or e mail

August 26.1996